Slack Sellars and Grayson

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by Joe S, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. Joe S

    Joe S Most Valued Member

    Hey Ray et al....
    I purchased this saw a while ago on our favourite on line auction but you will see why I couldn't resist. This 8" brass back has a nice open beech handle held in place by two split nut screws. The unusual solid brass back is shaped with a round tube over a flat that holds the blade in place. The flat has the SLACK SELLARS & GRAYSON stamp, flanked by IMPROVED CAST STEEL and SHEFFIELD and again flanked by a stylized "SWIFT" and the word SPEED (Corporate logo) and on the far right NO 2226.
    HSMB suggests they were around from 1833 -1856 but Ray has Slack alone in Whites in 1833 and Slack, Selllars and Grayson in Whites 1849 and 1852.
    I tried to search the British patent records for the NO2226 but that seemed to require payment which I at this point wasn't ready to invest in. I am wondering if someone has free access in order to look up the patent to see how it might have been an improvement on the traditional brass back or was it a gimmic. I have not seen any in my travels so I don't know if it really took off.
    Joe S.

    Attached Files:

  2. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Hi Joe,

    I googled British Patent No.2226 and came up with

    Preparing sewing threads. Being British Patent Number: 2226 ... › WEILD E.
    Available now at - No Binding - London, Eyre and Spottiswood, published at the Great Seal Patent Office c - 1874 - Book Condition: Good - First .

    If this is right, then the number is probably not a British patent no., although what it is eludes me. Possibly a model number.

    This is what you see if you look at the book in question

    Preparing sewing threads. Being British Patent Number: 2226 published: 1874

    The only thing that this tells us is that this patent is pre 1874 and which is not that much help unfortunately.

    And I am unable to WAG about this one I am afraid.

  3. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    This is a real puzzle. My first instinct on seeing something so way out of the usual run is to wonder if it's been put together from bits culled from other saws, but that profile of back cannot possibly have been anything other than itself, I reckon. I've seen this profile of back on one saw only before - an extremely cheap one with every other sign of European continental manufacture - so that is out.
    The other struck marks are all commonly found words, although I can't recall seeing "Improved cast steel" on a saw by SSG before.
    I thought maybe the number could be a "Registered Design" number, rather than a patent number, although I don't know the details of the difference between the two. Anyway, I couldn't find this number in the list of Registered Designs for metal between 1842 and 1884 (National Archives), so either it should be looked for under another rubric or date, or there is always the possibility that the number is just a make-up by the manufacturer.
    Then again, if this (I'm guessing here, Joe) saw is a US purchase it could be another of the steadily increasing (as far as I' concerned) special US export models (as is the Taylor brothers handsaw currently on US ebay) that did not feature in the standard catalogues for the British market in the Hawley Collection that are my own ultimate reference source.
    (Incidentally that Taylor Bros saw has a struck 4 1/2 in the centre of the blade in the general area of the other marks; this must, I suppose be an indication of point size, and joins the number 4 in a similar position on the Charles Peace saw recently discussed here - which was a puzzle to me, but I suppose now must also be viewed as a point size indicator - the position on the saw is I suppose an earlier usage, superseded by the place on the heel which was usual after about 1875.)
    Joe - this is as far as I'm concerned a one-off mystery saw! But thanks for the chance to see it, and I'd like to be able to use your photos in my database, please. Simon
    PS Looking more closely at the picture of the toe end-on, I wonder if the tubular part of the brass back has been very skilfully added post manufacture - what does it look like at the handle end? Is the letting in of the back into the handle suitably shaped to take the tubular part? If it is not, that may suggest a later addition, as may any other signs of brazing the tube to the folded brass back.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  4. Joe S

    Joe S Most Valued Member

    Hey Fred and Simon et al
    Fred, I really hadn't thought it as a model Number being so large a number or that there would have been enough for a catalogue but it sort of makes more sense because they aren't "preparing sewing threads".
    Simon, this was a purchase from a seller in South Yorkshire, UK so I doubt it came overseas and returned at a later time but stranger things happen. I have included more pics for our viewing pleasure. The metal is one piece of brass without any seams. The metal looks fitted to the handle where there is a nice cut out for the tube. I don't know if it is a one off but maybe a limited run, though a lot of trouble has gone to making it. A fake patent is never out of the realm of possiblilities just to delay any idea theft only to find it wasn't a great seller anyways and more trouble than it was worth.
    I have also taken a page from Ken Roberts to show a later Slack Sellars advertisement of the 1860's to show the corporate logo. Nothing mentioned there of this No2226. The mechanics of stamping on a curve would have been difficult and I wonder if it might have been stamped flat and then bent around a tube to get the final shape. Then fitted to the blade for the final fit.
    You are always welcome to pics for "Database".
    Gotta love saws mysteries.
    Joe S.
    Notice Simon they are producers of "improved" products including saws.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  5. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    Slack Sellars

    Thanks, Joe. South Yorkshire couldn't be much closer to home!
    This really is a very extraordinary piece of brass-work. I would be surprised if the marks could be struck on such a sharply curved piece of work, but again if they were struck while it was flat it wouldn't be surprising to see more distortion.
    Although the industry (or perhaps more accurately the tradesmen engaged in earning their living in it) was constantly concerned with turning out products for sale, the urge to innovate in order to get ahead of the huge amount of competition was also always there - and it looks as though this may be (so far) the sole example of one such innovation, otherwise unknown.
    The number is very reminiscent of the Registered Design number 2288 on the register plate that was used by Joseph Peace (see their advert on p144 of the advertisements in the 1856 Sheffield directory - on line) on some of their handles, which is what made me think of that.
  6. pmcgee

    pmcgee Most Valued Member

    Another SSG with a booming "export" sign ...
  7. kiwi

    kiwi Most Valued Member

    After a bit of a backsaw drought, I folded to temptation yesterday and picked up a three $10 backsaws, including two by Slack Sellars & Grayson; a 16" brassback closed handle, and a 10" open handle with a tubulated back, similar to the back shown by Joe in his original post above, (but in iron, not brass).
    I've always wanted a tubular back backsaw, ever since I read about them in the catalogue for the 1851 Great Exhibition, which noted that Slack Sellars & Grayson exhibited;
    Gentleman's cast-steel hand and other saws, having tubulated backs formed of iron, german silver, and brass, with handles composed of various woods..." backs formed of iron&f=false

    My tubular iron back is not quite as "tubulated" as Joe's brass one, likely because iron is not as easy to bend as brass. The handle looks to be regular beech (under a thick layer of poly) and not some exotic wood (drat!).
    The markings on my saw are similar to those on Joe's brass back, although I can't decipher a "No 2226" below the "registered...."on my saw
    Registered Design No 2226 is registered to William Sellars, and the subject is "saw back" so I believe it defines the SS&G tubular back (and I could confirm this if I wanted to pay $$ for a copy of the registered design)
    "... P1020920.JPG P1020921.JPG P1020923.JPG P1020924.JPG P1020925.JPG P1020933.JPG P1020920.JPG P1020921.JPG P1020923.JPG P1020924.JPG P1020925.JPG P1020933.JPG
  8. Dusty Shed Dweller

    Dusty Shed Dweller Most Valued Member

    I'm surprised that this style of back doesn't appear more frequently; such a back can be (relatively) easily made by bending and hammering the blank around a steel rod, whereas the flatter style of back that people normally equate with backsaw 'spines' are tough to make without means to render the blank malleable or a good bending brake.
  9. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    At last, someone who has information about the manufacture of backs.

    One thing that I have always wanted to know is:- Were the backs bent/formed when the respective metals were hot or cold?

    I could see good reasons for bending them hot in that the very acute angle of the spine would be much less likely to fracture, and also I suspect that if the blade were to be inserted with the backs still hot - ish, then the contraction on cooling would help to grip the blade.

    Does anyone know, as opposed to WAG, how they were made.

  10. Dusty Shed Dweller

    Dusty Shed Dweller Most Valued Member

    Fred, I don't claim to be an expert on this but I have found it to be tricky operation to 'roll your own' backs. A metalworker or boiler maker may be able to give a more technical assessment. On the face of it brass seems an easier choice because it is nominally soft, but in reality it doesn't fold in a uniform manner and forms ugly creases and cracks if folded cold.... I have been told that this is an effect called "work hardening". So if brass is used it must either be a very malleable alloy (i.e. low phosphor) or annealed. I suspect that it was done hot to anneal the metal and stop cold stresses from forming. They probably made batches of spines and fitted them up later. I see no evidence for them being fitted hot - no charring around the handle mortise and more importantly, a hot back is likely to be warped and that will not create a straight saw upon cooling. Any stresses in the back will transfer to the plate, as anybody who has messed with tensioning backsaws will attest. Another point to remember is that most backs have thick walls and they don't bend easily, particularly at the apex of the fold.

    I think this is why the majority of modern makers use a slitting cutter in a horizontal mill to produce backs from straight brass blanks - the success rate is far higher. I have had some success folding mild steel (or annealed steel), which is pretty soft. In fact you can sometimes see the creases from the folding process on some "steel" (more akin to iron in reality) backs if you look for them. I suspect that the final part of the back forming process was giving the blank an all mighty squeeze in some dies under a steam hammer to flatten and square them up (and perhaps some surface milling or linishing?). These metals are softish but when you try to impress marks on them you need to strike them bloody hard to leave a decent imprint - and doing so would almost certainly bend the spine. This suggests yet another stage of annealing and straightening.

    So what looks to be a simple process on the surface ("bang" there's your spine from a single press strike) isn't as there must be successive stages of stamping and annealing to keep the spine workable and straight.

    I think this was a specialized activity and there must have been somebody doing it for the platers if they weren't doing it in house.
  11. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Thanks for the thoughts on backs and bending them.

    I have been confused for a long time about the definitions of iron and steel and particularly what you can do with them. For anyone else in such a quandry, at least from the definitions point of view, I have found this page on google:-

    Definitions: Types of Iron and Steel
    The following definitions are used throughout the
    Hand Tools in History
    series. See
    Handbook for Ironmongers: A Glossa
    ry of Ferrous Metallurgy Terms
    for a
    more detailed description of the diversi
    ty of definitions of iron and steel.
    Wrought iron: 0.0 – 0.08% carbon co
    ntent plus slag inclusions
    Malleable iron (modern definition): 0.08 –
    0.2% carbon content plu
    s slag inclusions
    Malleable iron (pre-1870 definition): 0.08 – 0.5 carbon content
    Natural steel (early Iron Age to 19
    00): 0.2% carbon content or greater
    German steel (1400 to 1900): 0.
    2% carbon content or greater
    Low carbon steel (post-1870 definition): 0.2 –
    0.5% carbon content, no slag inclusions
    Tool steel: 0.5 – 1.3% (–
    2.0%) carbon content
    Cast iron: 2.0 –
    4.5% carbon content
    There is a wide variation in antiquarian and m
    odern definitions of iron and steel. Before
    the era of modern bulk process steel, “ma
    lleable iron” included
    what would now be
    called low carbon steel and can also mean
    any iron with a carbon content up to 0.5%,
    which is the hardening and quenching thre
    shold for steel.

    From this link

    It hasn't copied too well but the information (if correct) is still there if you plough your way through.

  12. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Hello all,

    I have just taken delivery of this saw, with legible writing referring to the design no.

    I also attach a link to the National Archives which is the page that you get to before you get to Kiwi's link and which also has another design number (2288) in favour of Joseph Peace about a saw handle. 45&id=C3088

    In my haste to get the wording on the back, I missed off the Speed/Bird trade mark which is at the front of "Improved Cast Steel".

    Reference to the design number is in HSMOB.


    Attached Files:

    Underthedirt likes this.
  13. kiwi

    kiwi Most Valued Member